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Team Aon endures testing Croft weekend

Team Aon drivers Tom Chilton, Andy Neate and new recruit Tom Onslow-Cole feel they experienced a frustrating weekend at Croft last weekend. As the team continue to develop the new ‘Global’ Ford Focus ST touring car the Ford drivers are continually trying out different set-ups and testing but the damp weather at Croft meant that the team struggled with finding the right configuration.

Tom Chilton was the team’s top scorer at the weekend, taking home three points finishes with a best result of 6th in race two.  “We had a lot of new parts on the car at Croft but we were scuppered by the good old British weather,” explained Chilton, 26. “We have three drivers and with time on a dry track, we would have been able to work through a testing programme over the course of this weekend to find out what works and what doesn’t. Because it rained, we were on the back foot. By losing so much track time, we were feeling our way with the handling at Croft and we made a couple of radical choices in terms of set-up that didn’t go our way. We have more work planned on the car and we will come back stronger from this.”

Andy Neate came into the Croft weekend on the back of his best-ever weekend in the BTCC at Oulton Park. However he was only able to manage 18th in qualifying on Saturday, more than two seconds off the pace, and so reverted to a less-experimental and more known set-up for race day. The 36-year-old suffered a puncture in the first race and a crash in the third, with the only positive being points in the second race.

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“I was confident that the previous set-up would allow me to push, and I was right,” said Neate. “Race two was fantastic and I went from 20th to ninth at the finish so it shows that we can get pace from the Ford Focus. With the progress everyone is pushing to make with the car, I am confident ahead of the second half of the year.”

Tom Onslow-Cole rejoined Team Aon having started the season with the AmD Milltek Racing squad. As a result of switching teams and essentially being a ‘new’ entry, Onslow-Cole was forced to run with 45kg of ballast during the weekend. He took a best finish of 10th in the second race but managed to finish all three races and gain valuable data for the team.

“It has been a real baptism of fire,” said Onslow-Cole. “I was getting familiar with the car in difficult conditions and we were trying some new things in terms of the set-up too. I think we probably went the wrong way with my car in terms of generating grip from the set-up, but we can even take a positive from that because now we know what doesn’t work. There is definitely more time to come from me too when I get used to the new Focus.”

Team Principal Mike Earle lamented the changeable weather conditions and says the team will now work hard over the long seven-week break to improve for Snetterton.

“This weekend hasn’t been one of our most successful,” added Earle. “That is what happens when you try to push the boundaries in terms of developing a car quickly, without much track time. We came with a lot of new things to try and we didn’t get the right track conditions that we needed to fully refine them which meant all of our drivers were experimenting all the way through the weekend.

“Now Croft is behind us, we have plenty of time to look through the data and refine the car even further. I believe that a number of steps we have taken are in the right direction and we will work hard over the break to translate that into some top results at Snetterton.”

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